Beloved community, these are complicated times! A month ago your church was ready to offer mask-optional gatherings for those who are vaccinated, and to say “yes” to small groups sharing food indoors. Now, King County is back to a mask mandate for indoor gatherings, regardless of vaccination status. Like the beginning of the pandemic, it seems that information is changing daily as we learn more about this latest variant. Your pastors and Emergence Team have been prayerfully and faithfully reviewing our plans to re-gather, in the context of a fluid and unfolding situation. For more on our plans to regather, see pages 1 and 2. It feels like there are a lot of unknowns. However, unlike March of 2020, there is a lot that we are certain about.
Here is what we know about the Delta variant of Covid-19:
- It is about twice as contagious as previous versions of the virus. This means it replicates more rapidly and produces more particles that someone who has been infected can then spread to others.
- You spread Covid to others before you yourself are showing any symptoms. You can spread Covid even if you have an asymptomatic case and never show any symptoms.
- Hospitals are filling up with Covid-19 patients. This puts everyone at greater risk, as those with serious or life-threatening needs navigate an overcrowded system. Those whose procedures are deemed “non-essential” have been postponed. We lift up in prayer all those in our community who are impacted.
- Vaccinated people can get Covid-19 and spread it to others. The vaccine gives us systemic immunity (protecting essential organs!) but it does not give us local immunity in areas like the nose and throat—that’s how the virus can still get in. The Delta variant is particularly good at replicating in our noses, before it gets into the bloodstream where a vaccinated immune system can fight it off.
- Singing creates a greater risk of transmission, because when you sing you breathe deeply and use more of your lungs: this means we inhale more particles, and we exhale more particles and they travel further away from us. Even masked, there is greater risk of exposure to Covid-19 from singing.
Pause for a moment. Take a few deep, slow breaths.
Here’s the good news:
- The precautions we’ve learned over the past 18 months still work:
- Being outside or in a well-ventilated, well-filtered indoor space reduces risk of transmission. We have upgraded our filters and are upgrading our ventilation system to make the air quality safer in the church.
- Masking is effective. Make sure your mask is snug fitting, with a filter or multiple layers of cloth. Make sure you are wearing your mask correctly. You can double-layer your mask for increased effectiveness.
- Distance and duration are also factors we can control. Notice how far away you are from other people and pay attention to how much time you spend in close proximity to someone. In order to transmit Covid-19, two people need to be close enough that the particles one person breathes out are breathed in by the other person—and for long enough that a significant concentration of infected air particles moves from one to the other. Reducing time and increasing space are good precautions.
- The vaccines are working really well. Breakthrough cases are stressful, but in King County they represent less than 10% of total infections, and 95% of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.
- Kids are less likely to get Covid-19 and spread Covid-19 than adults. However, until children under age 12 can be vaccinated, they are still at risk. We want UCUCC to be as safe as possible for each child.
- We’ve had 200 households respond to the emergence survey, on behalf of 472 church members. Of those eligible to be vaccinated, 100% are vaccinated. This is great news! For more on what we learned from the emergence survey, click here.
As we enter this next chapter of the pandemic, and continue on our journey of emergence, we think that testing is going to become a more important piece of our Covid-19 response. We are putting plans together to offer tests to our Sunday School teachers and our worship leaders. Free testing is still widely available, and rapid at-home test kids can be found at some drugstores for $25 or less (they aren’t always in stock, so try checking online at CVS, Walgreens, or your local drugstore). Having some in your medicine cabinet is a proactive step in preventing pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission, or, just helping alleviate worry if you wake up with a fever. Here are some resources for local testing sites: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/testing.aspx